Wolverina

Toronto All Stars Roar Back to Life with Big Win Over Roc City

ToRD Roc Neil

This was the first showdown between Toronto and Roc City since 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It’s been a while since Toronto Roller Derby and Roc City duelled on the flat track: Five years actually, give or take a few weeks, and at that time in March 2012 the two teams were on very different trajectories. Then, Toronto’s 171-108 win was part of a 10-1 to start the 2012 season, while for Roc City it was one of 6 losses in 7 games to kick of theirs. And although the Roc Stars would eventually turn that year around, they would never quite reach the heights that Toronto would. Eighteen months out of that win, the ToRD All Stars were turning heads in their first WFTDA D1 playoff appearance, the first of three straight appearances at the highest competitive level the sport has to offer.

Rina offense

Toronto got off to a quick start and were led offensively by Wolverina’s 135 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Fast forward to March 2017 and once again the two teams find themselves on a level playing field: Roc City having held steady over the years (still searching for their first D2 playoff appearance) are coming off of a 6-7, 2016 season and were ranked 92nd in the WFTDA coming into the showdown at The Bunker. Toronto, on the other hand, had fallen even faster than they’d previously risen. A disastrous 2016 saw the team go 2-8 with an average margin of loss of 213 points and tumble from a height of 23rd in the WFTDA to the 99th spot they held before Saturday night’s game. The result of a mass retirement of virtually a generation of skaters and the growing pains associated with restructuring and rebranding the All Stars, last season proved to be one of rebuilding. And that rebuilt roster was on full display on Saturday, the results of which should be cause for optimism.

Toronto burst off the starting line off after the opening whistle putting up 17 points over three jams before Roc City could even register a point, all part of a run of 6 straight lead jammer statuses and a 51-24 scoring spree that saw Toronto jump out to an early lead. The lead could have been ever higher but early penalty troubles (part of a 29-penalty opening half for the home team) resulted in a lot of pack disadvantages.

Muffin D Neil

Despite early penalty troubles, the Toronto defence held steady. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While Toronto’s jammer rotation included house league favourites Banshee and Monster Muffin, the crowd also got its first glimpse of the season of all-star-exclusive jammers Wolverina (who would lead the game in scoring with an impressive 135 points on a 90% lead percentage) and off-season transfer Pikante (95 points, 80%) from Helskinki’s Kallio Rolling Rainbow (she’s also a member of Portugal’s national team).

Despite the pack penalties, Toronto managed to extend its lead to 103-39 just past the midway point of the opening period, one they extended to 175-71 at the break.

Considering the Toronto skaters have spent most of their season so far knocking each other around in ToRD’s ultra-competitive house league, aside from the penalty troubles (that only got marginally better in the second half), the lines were tight. Constructed around home-team cores, one side of the All Stars pack featured the Chicks Ahoy! core of Boxcar, Joss Wheelin’ and Meg Fenway complemented by the Death Track Dolls’ Kate Silver and the Smoke City Bandits’ Jessica Rabid. Meanwhile, the other line saw the Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ core of Will Wrecker, Santa Muerte and Viktory Lapp completed with the Dolls’ Dawson and the Bandits’ titmouse. Both lines had strong moments throughout and both saw a foul out as well (Kate Silver and Santa Muerte).

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Kandy Krusher paced the offence for Roc City with 48 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The second half was a near mirror image of the first: a 45-18 opening five-minute run for Toronto extended to 296-112 with ten minutes to go and although the Roc Stars outscored Toronto 19-18 over the final three jams, it barely put a dent in Toronto’s 380-138 win.

 

It was the first time in nearly three years that Toronto managed to crest the 300-point mark, and along with the contributions from Wolverina and Pikante got 105 points from Banshee and 46 points from Monster Muffin, who had to leave the game early in the second half due to injury.

Roc City was led on the scoreboard by Kandy Krusher’s 48 points and Florence Fightingale’s 44. In the pack they were led by co-captains Hater Tot and double threat Terminal Trend and the hard hitting D-Day.

The All Stars will face off against Ottawa’s Capital City at the Bunker on April 22 before heading to Tri-City’s third-annual Beaver Fever tournament in June. Meanwhile, Toronto Roller Derby returns with its house league playoff quarterfinals on April 8 at the Bunker.

*The Toronto Vipers also made their 2017 debut on Saturday with an impressive 264-179 loss to the significantly more experienced Belleville Roller Derby Bombshells. A strong start to the season for ToRD’s future stars.

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The Vipers (in red) made their 2017 debut. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

 

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End of an Era: Betties Knock off Defending Champs in ToRD Semifinal

Smoke City Betties jammer WackerHer attempts to power through a Death Track Dolls wall in the ToRD semifinal. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Smoke City Betties jammer WackedHer attempts to power through a Death Track Dolls wall in the ToRD semifinal at The Bunker in Dowsnview Park on Saturday night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

At the midway point of the opening half, it was still anyone’s game.

From the opening whistle, the Smoke City Betties had managed to keep one step ahead of the defending champion Death Track Dolls, but with a scoreline that read 66-40, they hadn’t been able to distance themselves. It was still anyone’s game.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t: A methodical fourteen-minute, 50-0 run (in which they managed to nab eight out of nine lead jammers) extended the Bettie’s lead to 76 points. The Dolls would never get closer again, and after a second-place regular season and two-straight ToRD championships, they fell short in their attempt to make it three in a row in the 200-123 loss.

Betties blockers (l to r) Brickhouse Bardot, SewWhat?, and Jammher'head Shark contain Dolls jammer Common Dominator. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Betties blockers (l to r) Brickhouse Bardot, SewWhat?, and Jammher’head Shark contain Dolls jammer Common Dominator. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

On Saturday night the Betties (who finished third in the regular season) delivered a complete game effort from a determined, focused and unified team that seems to have saved its best efforts for the most important time of the season, and after dominant quarterfinal and semifinal wins looks poised to challenge the three-time champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls in Toronto Roller Derby’s ninth Battle for the Boot.

The Betties played such a complete game that it is actually difficult to pull out standout performances. Part of the key to the success that the team has displayed in this year’s playoff run seems to be that everyone is buying into her role on the track. In a post-game interview, blocker/pivot SewWhat? attributed this partially to an off-season turnover in leadership that required everyone to step up and take responsibility—something that the team obviously did not shy away from. And from emerging leaders like SewWhat?, Honey Boom Boom and LowblowPalooza, to first-year transfers like Anne Bulance and Brickhouse Bardot, to the veteran core of Tushy Galore and titmouse, the Betties have built the depth to compete against anyone in the league.

Dolls blocker Hannibelle looks to contain Betties jammer Wolverina. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Dolls blocker Hannibelle looks to contain Betties jammer Wolverina. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

As they have all season, the Betties used a deep, consistent jammer rotation led by the unflappable duo of WhackedHer (43 points and an 83% lead percentage at half, that translated to 51, 73% for the game) and Wolverina (who was the game’s leading scorer with 69 on a 77%) to terrorize the Death Track Dolls, who didn’t have the defensive depth to match the consistent turnover of diverse jammers. Overall the Betties had a 65% lead percentage at halftime (and an even more impressive 73% over the second half of the opening period, ) accounting in large part for the considerable 118-54 lead at the break.

Playing desperation derby, the Dolls actually had a better second half (eventually outscored 82-69 in the period) that was a little deceiving as their most sustained push (a 30-7 run) came over the last five minutes when the Betties had taken their skates off the gas and the game was out of reach.

The Dolls got a monumental effort from Sleeper Hold, who donned the star for a remarkable 22 jams on the night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls got a monumental effort from Sleeper Hold, who donned the star for a remarkable 22 jams on the night. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Part of the change could be attributed to a momentous effort from second-year jammer Sleeper Hold who appeared in twelve jams in the second half alone (and finished the game with 66 points and a 41% lead percentage on 22 jams). The lack of depth in the position was the result of the bad luck that seemed to follow the Dolls this season. With rookie of the year candidate PrEditor unavailable for the remainder of the season (along with Scarcasm being unavailable for this game) and Devochka having just returned from injury (she got stronger as the game went on, and was excellent as pivot—receiving some key passes and managing 15 points on 60% in limited action with the star), the Dolls were left with Sleeper, rookie Common Dominator (who only had 18 jams worth of experience under her belt coming into the game), and D-VAS call up Battering Ma’am (who didn’t look out of place at all, recording 20 on 42%) to try to match the Betties offensive depth. The Betties rotation was rounded out by CN Power jammer Smoka Kola (54, 69%) and six-year veteran titmouse, whose numbers seem to pale compared to her counterparts (18, 27%). But upon closer inspection, the crafty veteran found ways to deliver and had the Nerd’s “stat of the night”: an incredible 7 stolen points, including 4 in the second half.

Similarly, the Dolls’ pack was lacking some key pieces as well, as both Dawson and Bloc Quebecois were not yet ready to return (Slam Wow and Junkie Jenny were already gone for the season). Another D-VAS call up (and former Doll) Lucid Lou was excellent given the circumstances, and Robotomy, Getcha Kicks, Hannibelle and Stringer Belle continue to provide a consistent core to the pack, but it simply wasn’t enough against a Betties team that was firing on all cylinders.

In the end, the 77-point victory allows the Betties to return to battle for the boot for the third time in history. The showdown with the Gores marks a rematch of the 2009 Battle for the Boot, and is the first appearance for the Betties since a 2013 loss to the Dolls.

Nerd Glasses

* The game was broadcast on Rogers TV. Stay tuned for rebroadcasts. Also, the thrilling preliminary game between the D-VAS and Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain was also broadcast. Definitely find the time to tune in to this thrilling game. (You can also watch track-side footage of both games on layer9.ca)

These two teams will be meeting again in Guelph on June 13th. If this game was any indication, it might be a road trip worth making for Toronto fans!

*Battle for the Boot 9 is on June 6th at the Bunker. Tickets are on sale now.

Gores Pull into Top Spot in ToRD standings; Dolls improve to 1-1

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Smoke City Betties dueled for top spot in the standings. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Smoke City Betties dueled for top spot in the standings. (Photo by Joe Mac)

For the second time this month all four of Toronto Roller Derby’s house league teams were in action and it was a scrappy night at The Bunker on Saturday. Big hits, tight defense and some explosive jamming defined the evening’s games, and when the dust settled on the track the Gore-Gore Rollergirls (2-0) found themselves in first-place in the league, while the defending champion Death Track Dolls (1-1) managed their first win of the season over the least-place Chicks Ahoy! (0-2) to pull even with the Smoke City Betties (1-1).

Gore-Gore Rollergirls 155 vs. The Smoke City Betties 148

The Gores led for most of the game, but only narrowly, including a 13-point lead at half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Gores led for most of the game, but only narrowly, including a 13-point lead at half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Right now it looks as if the ToRD regular season is a three-way race for the top and there doesn’t appear to be much distance between the competitors. For the second game in a row, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls held off a late charge from their opponents to win by the narrowest of margins, and the Smoke City Betties (who trounced the Chicks in their season opener) will be left to wonder, “What if…?”

It’s been a long road for the Betties since their last Battle for the Boot appearance, and after the season opener it seemed as if this could be the season that the venerable team bounces back. On Saturday, things started off spectacularly for the Betties, with Smoka Cola picking up lead and the Gore jammer Santa Muerte heading to the box, the Betties found themselves spotted an 11-0 lead right out of the gates. The Betties actually dominated the opening minutes of the game, taking advantage of a scattered Gores team to lunge ahead 26-0 nearly seven minutes into the opening period.

The Gores went with a broad jammer rotation (Taranosaurus Rex, Lexi Con, Santa Muerte, Beaver Mansbridge, and Lumberjack Flash, who was playing her first game of the season), and it took them awhile to get going as the packs couldn’t find a steady rhythm with their jammers. Speaking of packs, co-captain Chronic returned after missing the season opener and was a huge presence for the Gores, and former D-VAS Knoccer Mom also made her ToRD debut.

It took a while for the Gores to get going, but they had managed to stem the flow by the ten-minute mark and picked up 10 points in the opening third of the half, but were still down 40-10.

As they did in their season opener, the Betties favoured a tighter rotation and it was clicking from the start. Led by Smoka Cola, Wolverina and Kil’Her At Large, it was WackedHer who truly got things going early on and was cutting up the Gores’ packs in the first half. Off-season transfer AnneBulance made her first appearance in the pack, and TJRD graduate Fight of the Chonchords debuted and looked very comfortable playing on a line with Tushy Galore, Honey Boom Boom and Brickhouse Bardot. But it was veterans SewWhat? And Lowblowpalooza who stood out when the Betties were controlling things early.

Taranosaurus Rex, who got knocked around last week against the Dolls, had a  bounce-back game against the Betties and sparked the Gores comeback midway through the first. Absorbing a big hit from Betties’ blocker Isla Be Damned, Rexy bounced right back, laying down a 19-point jam at the midway point to double up the Gores’ score and get them back into the game, down 59-38.

Betties' jammer Smoka Cola tore up the track and was key in her team's late-game comeback. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Betties’ jammer Smoka Cola tore up the track and was key in her team’s late-game comeback. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores started to come in waves over the last half of the opening period, with skaters like Viktory Lapp taking on bigger roles on the track and seeming to gain confidence with each passing moment (Vik supplied some nice offense during the comeback). Beaver Mansbridge was wearing the star for the first (and it turns out, only) lead change in the game when the Gores pulled ahead 72-69 with only five to go in the half. The Betties came undone over the final five, with jammers repeatedly in the box, and by the break, the Gores had taken a slim 83-70 lead.

The physicality ramped up in the second with both teams landing massive hits. But there had been a clear momentum shift in the game, and despite trying to mix it up by jamming SewWhat? and Honey Boom Boom, the Betties could not muster a sustained offensive push and by the midway point of the half found themselves facing the largest deficit of the game, down 132-85.

Then, at the 10-minute mark, Betties jammer Smoka Cola took over the game. It started with 21-point jam and continued through to the end, playing every second jam and almost single-handedly bringing the Betties back. With 2:30 left, the Betties were back within 19 and had outscored the Gores 37-18 over a twelve-minute stretch, but some questionable calls stalled the comeback. A few overextended jams (a 7-4 jam and 6-4 jam for the Betties) killed precious time on the clock, and inexplicably, with their team playing the best derby they had all night, the bench did not try to stop the clock in the last five minutes, leaving a time out and an official review on the board despite having pulled within 10 points (this would also have provided Smoka with time for a breather as well, as she began to run out of steam near the end of her heroic run). In the end, time ran out on the Betties and the Gores remained perfect on the season with the 155-148 win.

Death Track Dolls 245 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 151

Chicks' jammer Monster Muffin battles with Dolls' pivot Hannibelle

Chicks’ jammer Monster Muffin battles with Dolls’ pivot Hannibelle

The Chicks were coming off of a rough loss to the Betties in their season opener, and burst out of the gates after the opening whistle in the first game of the evening, seeming like a team obsessed and catching the Dolls off guard to hold a narrow 9-8 lead, five minutes in.

Another first-year transfer was the story in this one, as Monster Muffin, on the heels of her strong debut against the Gores, anchored an improved Chicks offense, and had a lot of success against the Dolls.  It took a while, but the defending champs finally blew open the game on a Scarcasm 25-point jam, all coming off of natural grand slams as the Dolls’ pack locked things down.

There weren’t many changes to the Dolls’ roster from the season opener, nor for the Chicks who stuck with their tight jammer rotation of Monster Muffin, R2 Smack U and Wheels of Misfortune (with Rosemary’s Rabies offering relief). The line of EmRaged, Biggley Smallz, Rabies and Joss Wheelin was outstanding for the Chicks all night, often shifting momentum with single, dominant jams, and kept the Chicks within reach, down 61-32 with 10 left in the opening period. The Dolls also maintained their season-opening rotation anchored by Devochka (who was steady all night), Sleeper Hold (who had three critical, game-changing jams), and Scar, but also gave track time to the rookie jammers Common Dominator and PrEditor.

The Chicks took advantage of some Dolls’ jammer-penalty issues, and despite excellent penalty killing from Hannibelle and Robotomy, pulled within 6 points with three minutes to go. It was only a Dolls’ power jam in the final moments that gave them a relatively secure 92-62 lead at the half.

The Dolls began the second half on a power start along with a 4-2 pack advantage, and despite the efforts of EmRaged (who was coming off of her second straight excellent game), they made the Chicks pay. A few 20+ point power jams in the opening ten minutes of the half saw the Dolls open up a substantial 144-69 lead. It was one that they would not relent.

Once again the Chicks faded after a great start. The Dolls led by 30 at the break. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Once again the Chicks faded after a great start. The Dolls led by 30 at the break. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Despite some penalty troubles Dawson had another strong game in the pack for the Dolls and along with Getcha Kicks (who has fully transitioned from jammer to key blocker for the Dolls) provided some timely offense for their team. Hannibelle, working well on a line with Robotomy, continues to emerge as a powerhouse in the pack for the Dolls who seem to have weathered yet another massive turnover and look strong in the build-up to the playoffs. UpHer Cut made her return to the Dolls after a year-long hiatus, and rookie, and former D-VAS standout, April Cruel made her debut.

The Chicks looked much better than they did two weeks ago, and with a strong core led by that phenomenal line of Biggley, Em, Rabies and Joss have a lot to build around. Rookie Vag Lightning continues to improve and was a strong physical presence in the pack, while returning veteran Hoff (who very briefly retired in the off season), is playing some of her best derby in years. Add to that a talent like Monster Muffin anchoring the offense, and the Chicks are trending upward and could be a dangerous foe come playoff time.

But on this night, the Dolls proved to be a step ahead, and looked much more consistent in skating away with the 245-151 victory to even up their record at 1-1.

** Layer9.ca was there track side to record the proceedings. Watch the archives here.

**ToRD is right back at it next week! It’ll be a travel team double header at The Bunker with the Bay Street Bruisers hosting their rivals the Bruteleggers (out of Royal City) and the D-VAS hosting Orangeville. Tickets are available now.